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Back from vacation with an interesting story about a beautiful, rare Indonesian flower.

Back from vacation with an interesting story about a beautiful, rare Indonesian flower.

Posted by Janene on 14th Feb 2015

   At the end of January, my husband and I took a vacation to visit friends in Bali. We've never been to Asia, in fact, this is the first stamp in the passports we got last year. Not exactly jetsetters, I know. It was 35 hours of travelling from our little Sierra mountain town of Three Rivers, CA until we walked out of the airport in Denpassar, Bali. Travel tip #1: take Benadryl and hibernate through the trans-Pacific flight. While at the airport, I asked about a flower from the Cananga odorata tree. One of the taxi drivers told me the Balinese word for the tree. It's pronounced Con-ong-ah in Balinese.

   The first week was spent mostly doing tourist things, learning to scuba dive, going on long drives, discovering new fruits, coffees, teas, learning some basic Balinese and some new foods. We spent two nights at the Elephant Safari Park in Taro Village, Ubud district where we learned much about Sumatran elephants and enjoyed washing, feeding, riding and swimming with them. What a great place!

   The next two weeks were spent with friends at their home in Ubud, a town up in the hills about an hour away from the city of Denpassar. A cultural and religious center, Ubud is home to many temples, events, artisans and some beautiful country. One of the neighbors stopped in to offer massage after working her shift at the local spa. I asked her about the flower. She told me the tree is called Cananga, but there were two flowering trees, very similar. They call the flower Sandat. (Sahn-dot). She walked me to the nearest trees and showed me the difference. Her family helped cut down some flowers from the taller variety. Darn, it was the same scent I remembered. 

   It was the same scent from the original Cananga odorata essential oil I used to get years ago from Indonesia. All of a sudden, no one could get it any more. Now, we see the same latin name on an essential oil, but it's called Ylang Ylang. This is a grassy weed that grows wild in Bali and used to thatch roofs. Not even close. Ylang Ylang is NOT from the Cananga odorata tree in Indonesia, not sure what the suppliers are thinking.

   So, I rigged up a rice cooker with a little help from the men and local hardware store. We cooked up a batch of hydrosol but, no way there are enough flowers available for making essential oil. Sandat flowers are used in religious ceremonies daily to thank the universe, promote peace and harmony. Traditionally, they are also used on marriage beds since they are known aphrodisiacs. The locals fry the flowers in coconut oil to make a temporary hair and body oil.

   After another few days of experimenting, we came up with an oil infusion and sterilized it, bottled and labelled it. I taught Ketut, the masseuse, how to make it and she is now happily selling this to the expat community and hopefully, by now, the Four Seasons who wanted me to teach their staff how to make it. Her first sale doubled her weekly earnings. Way to go Ketut! Being the sole support of her family, this should definitely help. She is the only person in the world who is making this product and I must say, this massage oil feels like heaven on earth. It's only for sale in Bali.

   And here's the thing that really got reinforced for me on this trip. Each of us makes a difference in this world. You know that saying "someone should do something about.....?" Remember this always: You are someone.